The Edmonton Oilers made a big trade this afternoon, sending away a veteran leader and quality NHL defenseman (captain Jason Smith) and an enigma with talent (Joffrey Lupul) in a deal for a young, talented RFA who was in the doghouse (Joni Pitkanen) and a veteran winger (Geoff Sanderson) who’ll help this season and give the kids at LW time to make the grade at the NHL level.
Joni Pitkanen will be 24 in September and made $2M last season. He’s 6-3, 215 and is a talented defender with a wide range of skills who fell on hard times with a Flyers team that had a season as long as the Oilers did in 06-07. I like Pitkanen a lot (always have), and if he can regain his status as a quality blueliner who can move the puck and take care of his own end with rugged play, the Oilers have a big piece of their future. Geoff Sanderson is a merely “stopgap” and is certainly a player who should have success in the MacT system (he’s fast and he’s pretty smart).
It’s hard to sell this trade as helping Edmonton starting in the immediate future, unless there are several things about to fall into place after this deal. The Oilers dealt two players from their major league roster and further weakened their blueline in the process. They simply don’t have enough NHL players to compete in 07-08 as things stand now and today’s deal didn’t see them add NHL calibre players (got two, lost two) and weakening the D by adding youth will make it more difficult next season.
One final note: Jason Smith was a warrior for this hockey club and will be missed tremendously. He is a veteran who will help the suddenly impressive Flyers in a big way. All the best to a fine hockey player who gave this city everything he had for a long damn time.